History comes alive with MoAR’s exhibit from Don Troiani

Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia
Don Troiani’s ‘Liberty’ exhibit.

The Museum of the American Revolution is chock full of opportunities to look back into our country’s history, but with their latest exhibit, visitors will get a more vivid snapshot than ever before. With the museum’s showcase, ‘Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War,’ Philadelphians will be able to view more than 45 original paintings by nationally renowned historical artist Don Troiani—and this is the first time they’ve ever been on display in this capacity for the public. 

As the release states, Connecticut-based artist Don Troiani (b.1949) has dedicated much of his artistic career to imagining and recreating what the Revolutionary War truly looked like. His use of primary sources, archaeology, original artifacts, and other research methods imbues his paintings with an almost photographic-quality realism. Troiani’s paintings demonstrate his extraordinary combination of historical research, technical skill, and artistic drama, and it’s now officially on display at the MoAR until September 2022. 

Victory or Death, Advance on Trenton.Don Troiani

“We are thrilled to be able to present this exhibition of the extraordinary, research-based works of Don Troiani,” said Matthew Skic, Curator of Exhibitions for the Museum in a statement. “Troiani’s paintings capture the raw emotions of the women and men caught up in war, allowing us an authentic and dramatic glimpse into the past and helping us grasp the human struggle of the American Revolution. The exhibition continues the museum’s ongoing effort to make the compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events of the American Revolution real for modern-day audiences.”

Just seeing the paintings in person is certainly something that puts an element of awe when it comes to the Revolutionary War and paintings in general. The detail, the stories that it covers (most seen are not widely known) and just the sheer mass of effort that Troiani put into everything offers an experience that’s unique and informative. 

Along with the paintings, those who head to the new exhibit will also be able to check out 40 objects on display ranging from weapons, military equipment, textiles, manuscripts, and more, which are on loan from Troiani’s personal collection, the museum’s collection, and other lenders. Walking in chronological order while perusing through the sights, an even bigger picture is painted from start to finish of some of the personal tales and plights and even victories of the people who lived through this historic time. 

It can be easy to forget that so many years ago, the people that lived through the Revolutionary War were just that…people living through a war. Their thoughts, feelings and experiences were very human, and even though we don’t see them in person today, their stories are brought to life by Troiani. 

“It is my hope that my paintings help people today grasp the significance of the Revolutionary struggles of the people who lived 250 years ago, whose brave actions continue to shape our lives,” explains Troiani in a statement. “I cannot think of a better institution than the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia to partner with to publicly display, for the first time, my original paintings of the Revolutionary War.”

Brave Men As Ever FoughtDon Troiani

Some standout paintings include the “The Oneida at the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777,” showing warriors of the Oneida Nation, who allied themselves with the United States, battled against fellow people of the Haudenosaunee- Seneca, Cayuga, and Mohawk allies of the British. There’s also Skic’s personal favorite “Victory or Death, the Advance on Trenton” which shows the aftermath of the famous sight of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Day. It puts into perspective such a notable image, that as galiant as it was, it was also very tumultuous and that deserves to be known.

As the release states, visitors will also encounter rare objects such as a bear-fur cap worn by a British Army grenadier, pieces of the Hessian flags that General Washington’s army captured at the Battle of Trenton, and a rifle made in 1775 by Moravian gunsmith Christian Oerter of Pennsylvania. All of these pieces were used by Troiani to put forth accuracy in his own creations. The exhibit will also feature an original copy of Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the Boston Massacre, on loan from the Dietrich American Foundation. Revere’s engraving will be displayed next to Troiani’s 2017 painting of the Boston Massacre.

One special showcase from Troiani comes directly from the museum. The artist’s most recent painting, “Brave Men as Ever Fought,” was an idea brought to the artist from the MoAR and funded by the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail of the National Park Service. The painting was recently unveiled earlier this year, and it captures the moment when 15-year-old African American sailor and Philadelphian James Forten witnessed Black and Native American troops in the ranks of the Continental Army as they marched past Independence Hall on their way to eventual victory at Yorktown. Forten later called those soldiers “as brave men as ever fought.”

Making this exhibit accessible to everyone is another focal point of the MoAR. Three showcases of Troiani’s work have been labeled tactical and will serve guests with visual disabilities. These were specifically created and donated by Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, as well as replica handling objects.

However, there’s an even more immersive way for everyone to get involved in the Revolutionary times in real-time and it’s happening this weekend. This Saturday, Nov. 6, Occupied Philadelphia is back and will take visitors on a trip back in time to when Philadelphia was seized by the British and occupied for nine long months in the fall of 1777. 

Occupied PhiladelphiaMoAR

As the release states, the festivities this weekend will kick off at 10 a.m. as approximately 40 costumed historical interpreters gather on the museum’s outdoor plaza for the unfurling of the British flag and the reading of British General Howe’s proclamation declaring Philadelphia an occupied city. Throughout the day, visitors will meet soldiers, civilians, prisoners-of-war, and spies as they demonstrate their trades—shoemaking, dressmaking, woodworking, practicing military drills and more—and perform street theater vignettes that bring dramatic moments from 1777-78 to life. Ticketed hour-long walking tours will depart from the museum and include stops at nearby historic sites, including Carpenters’ Hall (320 Chestnut St.), where the first Continental Congress met in 1774. Along the way, visitors will meet costumed interpreters and complete a spy challenge to aid the Revolutionary cause.

Other standouts from Occupied Philadelphia include special pop-ups, demonstrations, plus plenty of activities at the museum’s courtyard, which are free. Tickets can be bought for tours ($12) or for a bundle offering tours and admission to the museum ($21-$29)—which means you’ll be able to experience Occupied Philadelphia and Troiani’s exhibit all at once. 

To find out more information on the MoAR (101 S 3rd St.), visit amrevmuseum.org

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